Evan Silva


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Matchups: Russell on Fire

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Baltimore @ Chicago

Ravens-Bears has a 46-point over-under, fifth highest among 15 Week 11 games. Favoring Chicago by three, Vegas' prognosticators have a lot of faith in Josh McCown under the guidance of QB Whisperer Marc Trestman. Despite all of McCown's to-date success, he's a tough sell beyond two-quarterback leagues this week. Baltimore has permitted just nine passing TDs over its last eight games and is tied for third in sacks. ... McCown's target distribution on the year: Brandon Marshall 22; Alshon Jeffery 17; Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett 11; Earl Bennett 5; Marquess Wilson 2; Michael Bush 1. ... McCown has kept Marshall afloat as a WR1 and Jeffery as a WR2/3, and Trestman's quick-out attack sets up both for heavy helpings of Week 11 targets even if Jay Cutler's (ankle) absence caps their big-play potential. Trestman has been calling a near-even number of plays for Marshall and Jeffery, his clear Nos. 1 and 2 pass-game options. Even with Cutler at the helm, Marshall was targeted 71 times with Jeffery a close-behind 67. ... Martellus has a gloomier Week 11 outlook against a Ravens defense allowing the fourth fewest receptions to tight ends. I'd view him as a TD-dependent, low-end TE1. ... Although Forte's Week 10 game was his slowest of the year (49 scoreless yards), he received 20-plus touches for the sixth time this season and remains locked in as an RB1. Only Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson, and LeSean McCoy have scored more fantasy running back points than Forte in 2013. Baltimore's No. 10 run defense coughed up 131 total yards and a touchdown to Cincinnati backs last week. Trestman employs Forte in ways similar to the Bengals' usage of Gio Bernard.

Already scraping the barrel at 26th in yards allowed and 25th in points, the Bears lost top CB Charles Tillman (triceps) this week to injured reserve. Chicago offers Joe Flacco an inviting matchup because it can't pressure the passer and is now shorthanded in the back end. With multiple touchdown throws in three of his last four outings, Flacco is worth a look as a desperation QB1 streamer. ... If a Week 11 date with Chicago's sieve-ish run defense can't jump start Ray Rice's bust of a season, nothing will. In Weeks 6-10, Alfred Morris/Roy Helu, washed-up Brandon Jacobs, Eddie Lacy/James Starks, and Reggie Bush combined to paste the depleted Bears for 537 yards and seven TDs on 94 runs (5.71 YPC). ... Coach John Harbaugh told reporters this week the Ravens are willing to ride the hot hand in the backfield, so keep a close eye on Bernard Pierce and consider him a flex option in 14- and 16-team leagues. Pierce has at least six carries in five straight games. In last week's overtime win over Cincinnati, Pierce totaled 43 yards on ten touches compared to Rice's anemic 56 yards on 24 all-purpose attempts. Pro Football Focus has credited Pierce with 14 broken tackles as a rusher this year. Rice has five.

Flacco's target distribution over his last four games: Torrey Smith 32; Marlon Brown 23; Jacoby Jones 20; Rice 19; Tandon Doss and Dallas Clark 13, Ed Dickson 9; Pierce 6; Deonte Thompson 4. ... Tillman's loss benefits Smith, who busted a four-game touchdown slump with a seven-yard second-quarter score last week against the Bengals. Still on pace for career highs in catches (73) and yards (1,339), Smith is a high-end fantasy WR2. ... Baltimore's pass-catching corps behind Smith is a weekly crapshoot. Brown is ordinarily the best bet, though he's failed to clear 55 yards in all but two games this season. 6-foot-5, 216-pound Brown does have a favorable on-paper matchup this week against Bears 5-foot-11, 188-pound slot corner Isaiah Frey. ... Third receiver Jones is playing outside in three-receiver sets, bookending Smith with Brown inside. Averaging 28.4 yards per game, Jones is going to spend most of Sunday's snaps in the coverage of LCB Tim Jennings, who is Chicago's top cover man with Tillman on the shelf. ... Clark has flukily scored a touchdown in three of his last four games despite topping 14 receiving yards in just one of them. Clark is a 34-year-old part-time player in Baltimore's offense. He isn't worth streaming.

Score Prediction: Ravens 23, Bears 17

Atlanta @ Tampa Bay

Mike James' fractured ankle on the heels of Doug Martin's year-ending shoulder tear leaves the Bucs' backfield to a committee of usual blitz-pickup specialist Brian Leonard, and versatile scatback Bobby Rainey. A useful if plodding hybrid-type player, Leonard will be the lead runner and a legit 20-touch candidate against a Falcons defense that ranks 27th versus the run and permits 4.60 YPC, the sixth highest average in football. Leonard lacks a high ceiling because he won't break big plays, but he generally gains what's blocked and excels in the pass game. Think of a slightly smaller version of Peyton Hillis. ... “That’s probably how we’ll have to go -- ham and egging with those two guys and see what we can do," coach Greg Schiano explained of his running game this week. Rainey broke a 31-yard run in last week's win over Miami, and reached pay dirt from a yard out one play later. Don't take the goal-line plunge as a sign of things to come. More of a deep-league fantasy prospect than starter Leonard, Rainey is likelier to fill a change-of-pace back role going forward. ... Mike Glennon is worth a look in two-quarterback leagues just because his opponent has been so porous through the air. 25th in pass defense and tied for 27th in sacks, Atlanta has allowed enemy signal callers to combine for a 19:6 TD-to-INT ratio and NFC-high 103.5 passer rating through nine games. The Falcons simply don't have much talent on defense. Glennon touched them up for 256 yards and a pair of scores in these teams' Week 7 meeting.

Glennon's target distribution on the year: Vincent Jackson 72; Tim Wright 29; Leonard 20; Tiquan Underwood 18; James 11; Chris Owusu 7; Tom Crabtree 5; Rainey 1. ... V-Jax shredded Mike Nolan's Falcons defense for a 10-138-2 line in Week 7. I realize Jackson has strung together three straight slow games since, but he's still leading Tampa in targets on a weekly basis and remains a plug-and-play, if boom-or-bust WR2. He's going to square off with rookie CBs Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant on the majority of Sunday's snaps. ... Underwood has made two starts since Mike Williams (hamstring) landed on I.R., registering box-score lines of 2-29-1 and 3-64. Expect Underwood to spend most of this contest in stationary Falcons LCB Asante Samuel's coverage. You should be able to do better in a WR3 slot at this point in the fantasy season. ... Like Jackson, Wright is dealing with statistical inconsistencies resulting from a run-first offense and up-and-down rookie passer. Wright remains a justifiable TE1 streamer against a Falcons defense surrendering the 14th most fantasy points to tight ends, though it's worth noting he was held to two catches for 15 yards on three targets in Week 7 by Atlanta. Wright is a desperation play.

Matt Ryan has managed 78 completions on his last 125 attempts for 683 yards (5.46 YPA) and a 3:7 TD-to-INT ratio. So fantasy owners are going to need to bank on Ryan's matchup overcoming his poor recent performance. Over its last five games, Tampa's defense has been shredded by Nick Foles, receiver-depleted Ryan, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Ryan Tannehill for a combined 111-of-157 passing (70.7%), 1,236 yards (7.87 YPA) and a 12:3 TD-to-INT ratio, with three more scores on quarterback runs. Even without Roddy White, Ryan touched up these same Bucs for 273 yards and three scores in Week 7. Ryan is a borderline QB1 for Week 11. ... Ryan's target distribution in White's Week 10 return to the lineup: Harry Douglas 8; Jacquizz Rodgers 7; Tony Gonzalez 5 and Steven Jackson 5; White and Jason Snelling 4; Darius Johnson 2; Drew Davis 1. ... The Bucs get dismantled weekly in the slot, where they coughed up Rishard Matthews' career game (11-120-2) last Monday night. Douglas ate up Tampa for a season-high 149 yards in the Week 7 game, scoring his only touchdown of 2013. Assuming his knee checks out – Douglas did not practice on Thursday – he’ll be a strong WR3. ... The Bucs began using Darrelle Revis in more press-man coverage the last two weeks. They've since held opposing No. 1 wideouts Golden Tate (3-29) and Mike Wallace (4-15) in check. The future is still bright for White, but the odds are against him paying off as a fantasy start this particular week.

Falcons OC Dirk Koetter told the media with a straight face this week that he will lean more on his lifeless run game going forward, perhaps in an effort to limit the exposure of Atlanta's leaky pass protection. A straight-line power back without shift or burst at this stage of his career, Jackson has managed a pathetic 74 scoreless yards on 33 carries (2.24 YPC) since returning from a lengthy hamstring injury three games ago. You'd be hard pressed to watch a Falcons game these days and came away not believing Quizz Rodgers would be a superior tailback option. S-Jax is a worrisome, low-floor flex against Tampa Bay's top-five run defense. ... Even if he's out-performing Jackson on a weekly basis, Rodgers simply isn't getting the ball enough to merit serious flex consideration beyond deep leagues. Quizz is averaging eight touches per game since S-Jax's return. Mike Smith's coaching staff has never envisioned Rodgers as a true lead NFL runner. ... Held to 30 yards on two receptions in these teams' Week 7 bout, Gonzalez (toe) is expected to be a game-time decision Sunday at Tampa Bay. If Gonzalez plays, he will be a low-end TE1. If he doesn't, the Falcons would turn to a rotation of Levine Toilolo and Chase Coffman.

Score Prediction: Buccaneers 23, Falcons 21

NY Jets @ Buffalo

Skepticism was advised when Bills coach Doug Marrone declared C.J. Spiller's high ankle sprain "behind him" entering Week 10. Indeed, the ankle remained problematic against the Steelers as Spiller limped repeatedly following carries and played only 32.8% of Buffalo's offensive snaps. Now taking on a Jets defense that ranks No. 1 versus the run and held him to ten yards on 11 touches in Week 3, Spiller must be treated as a boom-or-bust flex play. I always lean toward playing Spiller over benching him because he has week-winning running ability, but clearly he is not out of the woods. ... Fred Jackson had more success in the Week 3 game, though aside from one 59-yard tackle-breaking run Jackson was limited to 50 scoreless yards on ten touches. Relying on F-Jax to break long gains is an unreliable way to play fantasy football. Jackson is still involved in the passing game and red zone enough to be worth serious flex-play consideration. He's Buffalo's go-to back in scoring position and never a terrible bet for a goal-line plunge. ... E.J. Manuel was awful in last week's loss to the Steelers. Obviously rusty in Bills playcaller Nathaniel Hackett's attempt at a controlled, managed offense, Manuel missed receivers high and wide and failed to move the chains. In the Week 3 matchup, Rex Ryan's defense sacked Manuel eight times as the rookie completed 19-of-42 throws (45.2%). The Weeks 3 and 10 games have been Manuel's worst of his rookie year to date. I don't think he's a reliable two-quarterback-league play.

A factor that should further discourage two-QB leaguers from leaning on Manuel is the banged-up state of his receiver corps. Robert Woods (ankle) has been ruled out. Stevie Johnson (groin) is a game-time decision at best. It's conceivable that Manuel's Week 11 three-receiver package will consist of Marquise Goodwin, T.J. Graham, and Chris Hogan. ... Manuel's target distribution on the season: Johnson 48; Woods 33; Scott Chandler 27; Jackson 22; Graham 19; Spiller 14; Chris Gragg 6; Goodwin 5; Tashard Choice 2. ... Gragg is a tight end for 14-team leaguers and Dynasty owners to monitor. Gragg's six Week 10 targets ranked second on the Bills behind only Johnson, and he caught four for 25 yards and a score. A 2013 Combine standout, Gragg has speed to stretch the vertical seam. ... The Jets have allowed the fifth most fantasy points to tight ends, putting Chandler on the low end of TE1 streamer lists. He's averaging 43.1 yards per game. ... If Johnson doesn't play against New York, I'm taking my chances with Goodwin before Graham. Goodwin has outplayed his fellow situational deep threat throughout the year. With 4.21 wheels, Goodwin has enough deep speed to get behind Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner once or twice.


Friday Update: Johnson missed a third straight practice Friday and has been ruled out for Week 11. The Bills will likely start Goodwin and Graham outside, with Hogan at slot receiver. Fire up the Jets' fantasy defense. Hogan, nicknamed "7-Eleven" in Miami for his knack for identifying soft spots in zones, is a deep PPR sleeper this week. Goodwin would be the best bet for a big play.

The 5-4 Jets return from their bye rested with an emerging identity. Chris Ivory has gained 296 yards on his last 65 runs (4.55 YPC), and is averaging 19.7 touches over his last three games. "We know if he’s healthy, this young man has the ability to be a punch-you-in-the-face type back," coach Rex Ryan stated following the Jets' Week 9 win. Ivory's workloads have been inconsistent enough that he's only a flex play against Buffalo's No. 23 run defense, but an intriguing one. Ivory has demonstrated BeastModian run skills in games where the Jets have committed to him. ... Best suited for a change-up and third-down role, Bilal Powell has averaged 8.7 touches during that same three-game stretch. He's low-ceiling bench depth. ... Geno Smith obviously isn't a QB1, but there are reasons to like him as a two-quarterback-league start at Buffalo. He's getting back Santonio Holmes from an extended hamstring injury and Kellen Winslow from suspension, and will now be surrounded by a somewhat formidable pass-catching corps. The Bills have allowed a league-high 21 passing touchdowns and rank 18th against the pass. Buffalo DC Mike Pettine's defense can still bring enough pressure that Smith shouldn't be given much thought by standard-league streamers. Smith has looked like a franchise quarterback in clean pockets as a rookie, but he's struggled mightily under duress. Only the Chiefs have more sacks than the Bills this season.

Although improving on paper, Jets receivers and tight ends are shaping up as an unpredictable fantasy mess in a theoretically run-first offense with a rookie quarterback. Investing in any of them this week would be a blindfolded shot in the dark. ... With Jeremy Kerley (elbow) expected to miss at least one more game, the Jets' likeliest three-receiver set would have Stephen Hill and Holmes on the perimeter with David Nelson in the slot. If I'm in a PPR league searching for a potentially high volume of catches, I'm eyeballing Nelson. If I'm looking for a chance at a long passing connection, Hill would be the choice with Holmes very close behind. While there is big-play ability here, forecasting which Jets pass catcher is set up for a big day is virtually impossible. Hill (3-108-1) and Holmes (5-154-1) both had monster Week 3s against Buffalo, but did their damage against CB Justin Rogers. Rogers was benched two games later and has not played since. ... The Bills have allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points to tight ends, and the playing-time split between Winslow, Jeff Cumberland, and Zach Sudfeld is up in the air coming off the open date. It's a fantasy situation to avoid in Week 11. Hopefully we'll get some clarity after this game.

Score Prediction: Jets 20, Bills 13

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
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